Inside Bar Breakout Trading Strategy

The inside bar pattern is a common candlestick pattern seen on any time frame.

Essentially, an inside bar forms when the high and lows are contained inside the previous bar, called the mother bar.

inside bar strategy

When you see an inside bar, you now know that on a lower time frame, you have a consolidation of price.

inside bar examples

This is a 65 minute stock chart.  To set this up, I first used the daily time frame.

  1. This is the mother bar.  You can see several days that are trading inside the range of that one day
  2. Here we have the first inside candle on the daily chart the following day broken down here on the 65 minute.
  3. This is the second full day where #1 is still the mother bar although price has broken out of the previous day range
  4. Another day contained inside the mother bar that has broken from the previous day

We see the high of number 1 acting as a resistance level and the low as a support level.

Each day price breaks the previous days support or resistance of that inside candle.

By this example, you can see that trading inside of mother bars can make for some choppy price action.

Characteristics Of An Inside Bar Setup

As mentioned, inside bars appear on every time frame.  That does not mean that all time frames are worth trading.

Time Frame

Most candlestick formations are often better to trade on the higher time frames such as daily and weekly charts.  There is a lot of price movements on lower time frames and you can often get stuck in periods of low volatility.  That can make for some price action that is tough to sit through.

Using the higher time frames, you know that more traders were involved in the formation of the pattern.  Higher time frames are also able to absorb any economic release without having whipsaw price action.

Inside Bar Size

Size does matter when it comes to the inside bar when comparing it to the mother bar.

For this strategy we will be discussing, we would like to see an inside bar noticeable smaller than the mother bar but is not a strict requirement.

inside bar sizeNotice the inside bar on the left is much smaller than the mother bar when we consider the distance between lows and highs.  This shows that the smaller time frame consolidations are tighter – less price range.

The right side shows and inside bar with highs and lows close to the extremes of the mother bar.  This shows there was more price movement inside the mother bar.

With inside bars, we prefer to take advantage of tighter price compression with the theory that it leads to bigger price moves.  Also consider, with this rule, where price actually closes on the candle.

For example, on the right, price closed near the bottom of the mother bar and the inside candle.  If we are looking for longs, taking into account the obvious bearish traders, this would be a strong buy setup.

Also, smaller inside bars will have a greater distance to the high or low of the mother bar.  This can allow for better trade management before price reacts at the potential support or resistance.

Trend Direction

Counter trend trading is a popular form of trading.  However, latching onto a trend generally makes for a less stressful time while in the trade.

Is trend direction a guarantee of success?

No.  In fact you may buy in an uptrend at the exact top of the instrument you are trading.

Using trend direction as a trading plan variable can actually reduce your temptation to take every inside bar setup.  For my money, ride the trend with an explosion from an inside bar breakout is a better risk.

Inside Bar Breakout Strategy

Now that we discussed the characteristics of an inside bar, let’s cover the typical breakout strategy that is used.

breakouts

The black horizontal lines indicate the high or low of the inside bar that broke first.

You can see that some gave enough price movement to manage your trades and others, were stopped out quickly.

If you narrow that setups down to the trend direction of down, your outcome was pretty good (in this example).

Let’s circle back to what an inside bar represents:  a consolidation on a lower time frame.

Is there a way to take advantage of that truth?

False Breaks Of Ranges

There is nothing better than seeing traders stuck in a position and needing to exit.

Requiring a breakout of the inside bar in the opposite direction to the trend, is something to consider.

failed breakout inside bar

I used a trend line to show that the uptrend was in danger when price broke to the downside.

We see an inside bar setup – lower time frame range.

The next candle sees a breakout of the high of the inside candle.

What does that mean?  

Buyers entered the market in hopes of catching a new impulse move.

What happened?

Price reversed and trapped the buyers who now need to exit.  One price breaks the low of the false breakout candle and the inside bar candle low, buyers are jumping out of their positions.

If you are short, you are getting a nice push down in price.

Let’s Make Some Trading Rules

First thing we need to do is determine a trend direction.

We can use trend lines, price structure or even a 20 period moving average.  We will then look to trade in the direction of the trend.

If looking for a buy, we want to see price break to the downside of the inside bar.

Shorts?  We want to see the high of the inside candle broken.

Let’s look at a chart.

inside bar breakout strategy

The trend is up on this daily stock chart.

We first see an inside bar on the left side of the chart.  At the close of the next day, price had made an outside bar invalidating the setup.

  • Our other labelled inside bar forms
  • Price breaks to the downside of the inside bar getting traders into a short trade
  • We can place a buy order over this candle or over the inside bar high (prefer the candle after the IB)
  • Stop loss goes below the bar that broke the inside candle to the downside
  • Price forces shorts to exit their positions while you take advantage of a strong move in price

Let’s look at another trade setup and trigger example.

long trade example

  • Trend is up and looking for long signals
  • IB sets up and price breaks lower – Buy stop the high of the candle for an entry signal completion
  • Another inside bar formation occurs.  Price breaks lower and you buy stop the high

Setting A Stop Loss For Longs

In these long trade examples, if you set a buy stop order, you need to know where you will exit if the trade goes against you.  Without that, it is difficult to set your risk in terms of dollar amount.

You can use the low of the candle that breaks the low of the inside bar or half of the range of the candle.  Once trade is triggered, you can adjust your stop to the low of the trigger candle.

LONG TRADE STOP LOSS

Keep in mind that these charts are chosen to explain the strategy.

They do not all work out.

failed trade

The long setup was fine.  The inside bar even had a hint of bullish as it closed near the highs.

Trade triggered and the next day gapped down 8.23% from inside bar break.

This is why risk management is vital and this chart brings up an important consideration.

Strong Close

We expect follow through on these trades given the reasons why they set up.  Traders may want to consider seeing a strong close potential near the end of the day.

The day after the breakout, price essentially pushed higher for one hour and then settled back to the high of trigger candle.  That is not signs of bullish intent.

While you may exit only to see price continue in a strong trend, risk should be your number one priority.

So far we have:

  1. Trade in the direction of the trend
  2. Look for an inside bar
  3. Look for a breakout of the inside bar in the opposite direction of the trend
  4. Set a buy stop above (or sell stop below) the breakout candlestick OR the inside bar
  5. Set a stop loss 50% through the range of the breakout candlestick on trade trigger

There are further things that we should consider to give us trade opportunities.

Further Confirmation

Before we begin this section keep in mind that the more variables you add to a trading strategy, the less trades you will get.

It is important for you to consider each addition to the strategy.  The question should always be:  “Does this make a big difference to my results?”

This is a reversal trading setup from a failed breakout of a trading range.  Can we add something that has the potential of having more traders leaning in one direction?

Yes.

The first candle type.

variable

Notice that the preceding bar to the left of the inside candle is red.  This tells us that market participants were biased short on that day.

The color of the inside bar means little and the main focus is that traders are short – we can see it.

The day after the IB, price breaks to the downside.  The next day, price moves up through the trigger.

The key is to have the mother bar candle a color opposite to the overall trend direction.  In this case, price action was to the upside via the moving average.  We look for a red mother bar.

Take Profit Targets

Taking profits and trade management can be based on the structure of price.

Traders can also consider trailing stops to stop them out when adverse price action sets in.

Let’s discuss price structure targets.

PROFIT TARGETS

In this example, the bar before the inside bar is red in the context of an uptrend.

Price breaks the low of the IB and buy stop the high of that candle.

Once triggered, we now have potential resistance at the high of the inside bar and the high of the preceding candle.

Consider profit targets or trade management at these areas.

Aggressive Trader Consideration

Some traders are more aggressive and may want to add an adjustment to the strategy.

I highly suggest that traders only do this once they’ve proven to themselves that they can follow all trading plan rules.

In fact, some traders may want to use this method for intraday trading.  Quick profit targets and quick stop outs are vital to this approach.

INTRADAY

Instead of looking for a trending market, we will look to where price is trading in relation to the opening price of the instrument.

In our example, this is a 5 minute day trading chart and the black line is the opening price for the day.

As long as price is trading above it, we will not consider short positions.  Long trades as noted with the arrow on the chart are the only ones allowed..

day trading example 2

Here is another example.  The horizontal line is the open price.  The black arrows show the inside bar, we get a break below the inside bar and look for long only trades.

In Conclusion

A lot of information was covered in order to give you a few tools to design your own strategy.

The key point is we are looking to catch traders on the opposite side of the real move.  That is why we require a break, for longs, through the lows of the inside bar.  We then want to catch the move back through the inside bar.

Inside bars appear due to a period of consolidation and we are, essentially, looking for breakout plays after other traders take the wrong position.

Ensure you write out your trading plan and follow it consistently.



Author: CoachShane
Shane his trading journey in 2005, became a Netpicks customer in 2008 needing structure in his trading approach. His focus is on the technical side of trading filtering in a macro overview and credits a handful of traders that have heavily influenced his relaxed approach to trading. Shane started day trading Forex but has since transitioned to a swing/position focus in most markets including commodities and futures. This has allowed less time in front of the computer without an adverse affect on returns.

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